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Category Archives: Divorce

Why Every Man Should Have a Daughter

I was raised by a remarkable woman. In addition, I grew up with four equally brilliant older sisters. And yet. Despite that fact, I knew very little about women when I entered my marriage. I was a blithering idiot when it came to understanding the female of our species and made remarkable errors in1656173_10152167021502908_421350704_n judgement because of that fact. They are likely errors most men make when attempting to understand and react to their thoughts, actions or needs. Yet they were still made by a man who clearly had no clue when it came to fully appreciating what it meant to live with a woman.

Enter my daughters.

As I’ve witnessed my girls grow and mature I have gained remarkable insights that I otherwise probably would have never known. To see first hand the development of the female mind is something great documentaries and scientific studies are made of. I often watch in awe and bewilderment as they navigate through relationships, friendships, insecurities, school struggles, body development, understanding the world and finding their purpose.

One thing I did learn from my ex-wife, (or attempted to learn anyway), was to sometimes just shut up and listen. It is during these moments with my daughters that I sit there on the verge of breaking out into desperate cold sweats of anxiety as they divulge their view on the world around them. There are times I’m tempted to open my mouth, but just sit and take it all in. Blown away at the perspective I’m being offered and the information I’m being trusted with.

Through this process I have begun to view women very differently. Perhaps it’s because I know that I myself am still very much defined by the kid I was many moons ago. So I believe it’s fair to assume that most people, women included, continue to react to the world in the same way they did as children; all of this despite 1185934_10151773292737908_2109251665_nour experiences, knowledge and education. We have, in most cases, matured and learned how to handle things more “adult like.” However, the root of who we are continues to be and always will be based on the foundation we laid as children.

To witness first hand the building of that foundation and to see how the mind of a young child, in particular that of a young woman, processes information is without question the most life changing experience a man can have. It is, in my humble opinion, a blessing to be given this opportunity to take it all in. And I urge any man who has a daughter to pay very close attention. I also encourage you to stop, just when you’re about to open your mouth in judgement and distain, to just shut up and listen. Observe, watch and learn. You will be scared. You will be terrified by some of what you see and hear. You may very well be rocked to your very soul. You may be tempted to run or perhaps yell, “STOP! You can’t be serious!!!” But fight these urges and just listen. I mean, REALLY listen. For there are insights hidden within the murky waters that is their language. Unfortunately there is no “Rosetta Stone – Women” to teach you this language. So if your daughter is willing to open up to you … remember it is a gift. One to be treated as such. And I promise you, you will be a better man for it.

I still do not profess to understand women. Neh; quite the contrary. I make mistakes and continue to hear things wrong, react wrong and mis-read. But that’s the point. We’re not supposed to necessarily understand. Rather, if I’ve learned anything these past several years watching my children grow it’s that our purpose is not to understand, but rather simply accept and support. For we will not change them. We will not turn them into what we want. We can only be there to help them become the best “them” they can be.

 

 

 

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Crackin’ the Whip!

As I’m writing this my kids are doing their laundry.

When you first get divorced; if your time with the kids is divided, it’s very easy to slip into the mode of letting the kids mess up the house while they’re with you and then just straighten up after they leave. But at some point you recognize you’re not doing anyone any favors. Trying to keep up with all of it is near impossible. It is at that point that you suddenly realize you’re doing your kids a disservice. The excuse of “well I want to make
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the most of our time together” doesn’t wash either. We are parents, not butlers and maids. Our job is to teach our children responsibility and how to fend for themselves. If done routinely and done correctly there should be plenty of “fun time” available after everything is done.

And so their mother and I came to an agreement that Saturdays would be for getting the house in order regardless of whose house it was. As the schedule worked out, flag football is on Thursdays, softball games / practices are all on weekdays. So the weekends are wide open. And so; laundry and house cleaning is now part of the Saturday ritual; not unlike it was when I was growing up. Only in this instance the boy is actually expected to contribute. (that one is for my sisters). Each kid is responsible for their own clothes and keeping up with their things.

On the list of chores:

Laundry: No more whining because mom or dad didn’t have the right pair of jeans clean when you wanted them. It’s your responsibility. The washer and dryer are there for the family. Everyone now knows how to use it. Each has a designated time on Saturdays to do theirs. No excuses.

Rooms: With the clothes picked up, the rest of the room can be put back together including the beds.

Dishes: Each person is responsible for their own plate, glass, silverware and one additional item off of the table. They get rinsed and put in the dishwasher (neatly).

Garbage: If the garbage can is full. Empty it.

Additionally; our kids are also learning how to cook and bake. They can make breakfast including scrambled/fried eggs, sausage, pancakes and muffins. They can get their own cereal out if they like, prepare 2014-03-22 14.29.13Mac & Cheese or Rice Cups if they prefer. So long as they clean up their mess afterward. As they get older they are constantly hungry. If you want something outside the routine lunch and dinner mode; have at it.

Some of you may be saying: “Well duh! What took you so long!” But my guess is that there are plenty of you who find yourself continually picking up shoes, cereal bar wrappers, empty Goldfish boxes and water pouches, popsicle sticks etc. Spending an hour every day doing dishes. Trying to make sure each kid’s clothes end up in the right closet after coming out of the dryer. Well. The reality is there simply isn’t enough time as a single parent to do ALL of it. Especially when there are others in the house perfectly capable of doing many of the chores. The larger message here is that they are not visitors to my home or their mother’s home. We are a family and as a family we need to work together to maintain “OUR” homes. This is not a bed and breakfast or a cruise and I am not Julie your Cruise Director.

It takes patience mind you. It’s so much faster to just do it yourself. So be prepared for clothes to be folded differently, dishes to be placed in a different part of the dishwasher, beds to be made haphazardly and so on. The point isn’t for it to be done perfectly. The point is for them to get used to doing it and be a part of the family that takes care of the house. Over time things will get better. Just get them involved. That’s the goal at this point. And for them to recognize just how much effort it takes to do it all.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go get someone to vacuum under the coach cushions.

What type of chore systems do you have at YOUR house? Would love to hear how other dads handle it.

 

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iPhone Hangups

I feel like an old man when I tell my kids, “When I was a kid we didn’t have these fancy smancy ‘iPhones.” We had to turn a big dial with holes in it with our index finger and the phone was connected to the WALL.”

Their response: “You’re totally making that up dad!”

Look, I get it. Technology is wonderful and our ability to connect with people is easier than ever. However, I think sometimes we become slaves to our gadgets and at some point we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen to our kids. Too often our ability to communicate face to face is lost as we find safety in sending a text rather than speaking to a real person. Case in point; kids with phones. The very idea that someone under the age of 16 would have their own phone was a hard pill for me to swallow. But in our efforts to keep up with the Joneses and the influences of society we as parents are now adding to the family budget the expense of our kids having a phone. We use the excuse of “well they need to be able to stay in touch in case something happens.” Which is true. ButImage how much of it is luxury and how much of it is necessity?

As a divorced parent, I know I like being able to communicate with my kids when they’re with their mother. I know their mom feels the same way. And I most definitely believe it helps the kids knowing they’re able to stay connected with both of us at all times. So when a little text comes to me from “Favorite Daughter” saying, “I LOVE YOU DADDY,” you know I reply immediately, “I love you too!” so that she knows I’m there whenever she needs me.

But there is a danger here if the kids are given carte blanche with their new gadget. If left to themselves, they will bury their faces in that damn screen and be lost for hours. At one point the only way I could get my oldest child down for dinner was to send her a text letting her know it was on the table. I also noticed an attitude emerging as she was texting continuously for days with her friends rather than communicating with her family. She would hole herself up in her room and just disappear for hours. Even if you’re communicating with others, if you’re physically by yourself, to me you’re still very much alone.

And so we made some changes. Now when she gets home from school she is given an hour with the phone. When she uses that hour, is completely up to her, but it’s one hour and nothing more. Now, this was just implemented recently so the jury is still deliberating the effectiveness, but I will tell you so far it seems to be working. She has handed the phone over upon entering the house each day and used her hour at the very end of the day. So far she has been hanging out with her siblings and me watching TV, doing homework downstairs, shooting baskets in the driveway and just chasing her brother and sister around the house. She has been more respectful to everyone and much more willing to go with the flow.

Is this all due to the new rule? Hard to tell, but I personally think it’s two pronged. First, she’s pulled away from the glow of the phone. Second, I’m basically telling her I want to hang out with her. She needs to feel that. 2014-02-22 14.59.41-1Letting her be by herself I think tells her just the opposite. I remember one day I told my oldest daughter that I didn’t like that she was spending so much time alone in her room. She said, “Hey I asked you if you wanted to go throw the softball around and you said you were busy.” Ouch. She had me there. What could I say? Opportunity lost.

I think it speaks to a child’s need for limits, their desire for us to set them and that if we don’t make a point of engaging them, something else will. They need us to structure their lives to some degree and teach them a basic rule that my kids here on a daily basis; “All things in moderation.” They also need human contact and if we don’t give it to them they’ll find a way to get it even if it’s through a piece of metal. A phone is indeed a luxury and in my opinion can be a dangerous one. I mean, come on, how many of us ‘adults’ have lost an hour playing Words With Friends or some mindless other game on our smart phone? Imagine that distraction in a kid’s hand. So if you see your kid’s face buried in that little screen don’t hesitate to consider some guidelines. Stop and recognize that looking through that window for extended periods of time cannot be healthy.

Bottom line: “FaceTime” is cool … “Face to Face” time is better.

 

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What A Fool Believes

Rarely, if ever, will you find me talking about religion or politics on this blog. But every once in a while it’s fun to shake things up a bit. Look I get it. This nation was partly founded on a person’s right to religious freedom and ability to worship (or not worship for that matter) as they please without persecution. Freedom is what makes America great. Sure, sometimes the concept of freedom is lost on some, but still, we all have freedoms that allow us to believe what we believe and live accordingly.

The problem I’m having with all of these proposed laws pertaining to a person’s right to have their religious beliefs protected is the ambiguity that seems to come with them. By that I simply mean at what point does a Screenshot 2014-02-27 12.57.58person’s statement “it’s against my religious beliefs” have to be backed up? And is the person making that statement, sure that the religion they follow would back up what they’re saying? Basically are they accurate in their knowledge of their religion or are their “personal beliefs” influencing their “religious beliefs.”

I myself was raised Catholic. Much of what I understood about our religion I had learned from my parents. And they in turn had inherited that knowledge from their parents. What I learned later in life, was that a good portion of what they had taught me was actually inaccurate and more in line with what our ancestors “personally” believed rather than what the Catholic church actually taught. There were choices about our lives that pertained to meals, holidays, and interactions with others that were based primarily on what my parents considered to be the teachings of the Catholic church. These choices were, as far as they were concerned, based on their religious beliefs. However, the reality was that because their understanding of the Catholic faith was somewhat inaccurate, these choices were actually based more on personal beliefs. How awkward it would have been to have made the statement, “we don’t do that because it’s against our religious beliefs” only to have the church say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I’m fairly confident that the majority of Americans would be surprised to learn what their own church truly believes and how many times they’ve made choices that they thought were being made based on religious
beliefs, but were rather misunderstandings or misinterpretations of their own religion. So the question is, at
the-doobie-brothers-what-a-fool-believes-1979-5what point would a person have to back up a statement like, “I’m not going to provide you with that service because it’s against my religious beliefs?” Could they just say it and walk away or would they be obligated to prove it by providing documentation that verifies that those are in fact the beliefs of the religion they follow?

Religion in and of itself is such a private, personal matter and often interpreted differently by different people based on their own personal beliefs or how they were raised. It seems remarkably difficult to me to create a law which is very black and white in nature based on a religious belief which inherently has a lot of gray area. Even the bible itself is interpreted differently from faith to faith, congregation to congregation, individual to individual. So it seems impossible to me for someone to make the statement, “it’s against my religious beliefs,” without there being even a small percentage of personal biases interlaced within that statement.

Both my ex and I try to teach our children to learn about each other’s faiths and cultures to better understand the people around them and to recognize that we all think differently. I personally believe that the more you open yourself to understanding others, the more you recognize that despite our differences we’re very much the same. That is scary for some as it forces people to question what they’ve known as truth their entire life. And so they turn a blind eye to protect their own beliefs. But in doing so they very well may be living their life based on misinformation and making costly judgment errors.

Opening yourself up to understanding takes a certain amount of courage and, yes, faith. It doesn’t mean giving up your own beliefs, it simply means understanding the perspective of those we live with day to day. And why can’t we believe different things but still help each other. Sure it’s easier and may feel somewhat safer to live in a world of ignorant bliss. But to quote the Doobie Brothers, “What a fool believes … he sees.” And if all he sees is what he believes, then he’s actually quite blind.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Divorce, rules, Uncategorized

 

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I’ll Take The Mess

Well, it’s Sunday night and the house is a mess. There are clothes lying on the floor. Empty bags of snacks on the coffee table. Shoes and socks strewn about. A few dishes that never made it into the dishwasher. Floors need mopping. There’s laundry in the dryer to fold and still more ready to go into the washer. Odds and ends desperately need to find a home. Basically, to say our house looks lived in is an understatement. But I don’t care.

I will gladly take the messy house in exchange for a full two days of spending time together as a family. To spend an entire day playing softball together on the first truly nice Saturday of the new year. Seeing all three 2014-02-22 14.49.20kids playing together without pulling each others hair out (well, for the most part). Hanging out together in the house. Having meals together. Arguing together. Working it out together. Spending hours with one on a school project. Having a special dinner with another while the other two spent time celebrating a friend’s birthday. Shooting hoops and playing catch with the third. Weekends like that are too few and far between.

They don’t come easily either. As the girls get older they’d much rather spend the night at a friend’s or go skating with the gang. It took several no’s and turning down other offers to get us all in the same house at the same time for more than an afternoon. No softball practice. No soccer games. No sleepovers. But it was worth it. We had our moments of frustration and we had our share of stress points throughout the weekend. But we worked it out. And when it was all said and done I gathered the troops to thank them all for a terrific weekend together. I wanted them to recognize how special these days are and how important it is that from time to time we shut out the world and focus on each other to remind ourselves that we are a team.

For me personally, to have a weekend without too many projects or deadlines was too good to pass up. Those days are rare as well, especially after a busy week. There were several moments when an hour on the couch 2014-02-17 09.31.25sounded like heaven. But a moment throwing a baseball with my son or making breakfast with another sounded even better. We all had to push ourselves at times and I was proud to see all three of the kids make the effort. Maybe they all recognized they needed it more than any of us realized. It encouraged me to keep putting the mouse down to get back outside to shoot one more basket.

I love my kids. I really do. They push me to new limits on a daily basis. There are times when I throw my arms up in complete disbelief at how horrible a job I’ve done parenting these little demons. And then somehow it all comes together. Just when I’m convinced I completely suck as a parent, the kids remind me of what it means to be a family and how important we are to each other. Smiles and hugs goodnight and three kids laughing together tells us all it was well worth every effort and that sometimes a mess isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

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